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Taking the Kids: A different kind of trip to Alaska

By Eileen Ogintz, Tribune Content Agency on

Kayak to a glacier or paddle a canoe while looking for bears snacking along the shore and birds flying overhead.

Check out the puffins, the sea otters, harbor seals and more. Scoop glacial ice for your drink.

Ryo Sprosts, 8, likely won't ever forget eating lunch in a kayak as the Aialik Glacier, the largest tidewater glacier in Aialik Bay, calved and roared. He was a bit sore after the seven-mile kayak, he said, "But that was the best!"

His older sister and parents agreed. His dad Craig Sprosts said, "Alaska is about the wilderness experience and being here is a fantastic opportunity to have comfort and be in the wilderness."

Actually, you can't get much more remote -- or farther away from cruise crowds than atKenai Fjords Glacier Lodge, which opened 10 years ago -- the first and only lodge in the national park and accessible only by a four-hour boat trip from Seward. It's just 16 cabins within the 1,700-acre Pedersen Lagoon Wildlife Sanctuary. You can't beat the views of the Pedersen Glacier!

The vast majority of visitors to Alaska -- millions each year -- arrive by cruise ship, but since 1977 Alaska Wildland Adventures has offered a different kind of experience, now with three different lodges offering everything from fishing to hiking to wildlife viewing. This is the time of year when most families book Alaska trips, however they plan to travel.


"You just can't mass produce an authentic wilderness experience on a cruise ship," said Kirk Hoessle, the president and founder of Alaska Wildland Adventures. He came to Alaska as a 21-year-old for a summer job and started leading wilderness camping trips the following year. Hoessle observed that there has been tremendous growth of families seeking a wilderness experience like the families we met to one parent traveling with one child or an adult child to grandma and grandpa chartering a whole trip for the extended family.

As a result, Alaska Wildland Adventures has devised itineraries for families with shorter travel times between destinations, diverse activities and trip leaders, who are in tune with kids. "It's a big part of what we do now. and we love it," he said.

"Now I understand why they call this the Last Frontier," said Jan Whittingham from Northern California, traveling with her son Chase, 26. "It's unbelievable."

Think plunging fjords, crystal clear water, the glaciers, wildlife everywhere you look, and comfortable log cabins all with decks to enjoy stellar views.


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